Indigenous Community Justice Lecture Series Provides a Platform for First Nations Speakers

The Indigenous Community Justice Lecture Series organized by KPU Instructor Lisa Monchalin, began in September and wrapped up in late November. (Stephanie Davies)

In accompaniment with Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s new Indigenous Community Justice program, ICJ instructor Lisa Monchalin is coordinating the Indigenous Community Justice Lecture Series. The series has seen activists, allies, and performers visit the Surrey campus nearly every Tuesday night this semester to talk about Indigenous issues.

“When the new minor in Indigenous Community Justice had gotten approval in the summer, I knew I wanted to put something on as a way to celebrate and kick-start the minor,” says Monchalin.

The series made its debut in September, with an early presentation by Kwantlen First Nation Elder and KPU Elder in Residence Lekeyten and his son Brandon Gabriel in an event co-organized with KPIRG called “Our Home on Native Land”.

“I thought it would be a good idea to overlap the lecture series with the class I teach, which is part of the minor,” says Monchalin. “The course is ‘Indigenous Activism’ and I organized the lecture series as part of that course.”

Individuals featured in the series showcase the strength and resilience of Indigenous communities across Canada. Some of the themes brought up in the lectures include decolonization, Indigenous land and water protection, genocide of Indigenous people in Canada, and activism through poetry.

“I think that many of the speakers leave people with a lot of things to think about,” says Monchalin. “Many of the speakers share life-changing things I hope attendees leave this lecture series with.”

Other guests have included Dawn Morrison, Tamara Starblanket, the dance group Butterflies in Spirit, JB the First Lady, and the music group Enter-Tribal. The final event of the semester is on Nov. 28, at 7:00 pm, featuring Lekeyten, Christine Jack, and Brandon Gabriel.

The series aims to enrich people’s understanding of, and appreciation for, the vibrancy and strength that has shaped Indigenous communities in 2017. During JB the First Lady’s presentation, she would often use the phrase “All my relations,” which means “We are all related,” or “All are related.”

The series also emphasizes the need to work together. It’s a celebration of what makes us strong and what brings us together—it showcases the power of using one’s voice to pass on languages, stories, and truths. JB the First Lady’s lyrics from the song “Still Here” encapsulate the series’ tone: “The message is clear. They wanted us to disappear, but we still here. We still here.”